Saturday, May 25, 2024

From the Backlist - In What World


A Vampire Knight [ヴァンパイア 騎士]

Welcome to the Sup!

It's time again to explore our awesome backlist and I'm so glad you have joined our troupe of merry readers!

Today we are sharing another post by the bestselling author Margaret Ronald. Her thoughts on world building from May 20, 2011 are insightful for both readers and writers alike. 

Come along with us to discover the effects of adding magic to a world!

* * *

In What World...

...WORDS (have) become a sort of shorthand for setting up drama. And for me, they sum up one of the things I love about writing: finding that "in a world" moment and drawing it out into a real, complicated situation.

Say you have a fairly normal setting, only with magic/mythical creatures/mutant superpowers. (In a world where vampires roam the a world where deities lurk in back alleys...) Said powers can range from outright awesome (immortality! control over electricity! telekinesis!) to just above mundane (control over all shrimp no longer than one inch! olfactory invulnerability! keeping a fridge permanently clean!). The first and most important question then becomes "why aren't these magicians/vampires/mutants in charge of everything?"

One answer is "they are, we just don't know it." Okay, then. How much energy does it take to hide something that big? And why not rule openly? Or perhaps in this world, they are already visibly in charge of everything. That's going to make a lot of changes in the governance of this world, possibly even down to who's still considered a person. If vampires are in charge, are humans cattle? If magicians rule, where's the check on their power? 


There are lots of fun ways to play with this character by character -- say, Mr. Electricity above can only exert his power at great personal cost, and so lives off the grid, away from civilization. Or maybe the fridge-cleaning guy works in a sterile lab, and so that just makes his life a little easier. But on a larger scale, the effects of adding magic to a world are a lot more pernicious... Read the rest of the post.

Read more about Margaret Ronald here!

And, her awesome books.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Choose Your Weapon - Firearms

Jinx from Arcane - Season Two Theories - by Tom Hartig November 22, 2021

A firearm might not be the first weapon we think of sifting through the Fantasy genre, but when considering the popular subcategories, from Steampunk to Urban Fantasy, they do indeed appear. Think of it this way: In any world where gunpowder has been discovered, firearms can exist. 

Ever since Marco Polo started travelling the Silk Road, these exploding projectile weapons have found their way into the hands of Western inventors, and shortly after, Western literature, including Fantasy. Just take a look at these wonderful subgenre examples.


Gail Carriger's The Parasol Protectorate Series comes to mind.

Engagingly written in a Steampunk/PNR/tongue-in-cheek style, this is a 'five book (and one prequel short) series chronicling the exploits of Alexia Tarabotti, a lady of considerable assets including a large Scottish werewolf, a battle-parasol, and treacle tart. Oh, and she has no soul...'

“Well, my love,” said Alexia with prodigious daring to Lord Maccon, “shall we?” 

The earl started to move forward and then stopped abruptly and looked down at her, not moving at all. “Am I?”

“Are you what?” She peeked up at him through her tangled hair, pretending confusion. There was no possible way she was going to make this easy for him.

“Your love?”

“Well, you are a werewolf, Scottish, naked, and covered in blood, and I am still holding your hand.”

He sighed in evident relief. “Good. That is settled, then.”

― Gail Carriger, Soulless

How fun is that!

Think also of Sanderson's Alloy of Law, the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik and other great Steampunk reads like the Lightbribger series by Brent Weeks

From Western subgenres to the Victorian era and the Civil War, Steampunk has much to offer, including a 'new' take on weapons in the Fantasy arsenal.

Urban Fantasy

This genre has had its ups and downs, but Urban Fantasy is in our blood and here to stay. With its paranormal characters set against a citified backdrop, what's not to love?

I burned through the Southern Vampire Mysteries (You can check out this internet database of firearms found in True Blood, as an example). I  also relish authors like Patricia Briggs and her Mercy Tompson Series

But there are some caveats to consider when writing Urban Fantasy.

 Because we want readers immersed in the tale, 'modern' weapons require careful handling. Otherwise, their appearance might flip readers out of the magic and fracture the storytelling altogether.

The first thing I consider with this genre is giving the township or city backdrop a personality. Think of it as a main character:

The backdrop aesthetic in an urban fantasy... plays a key role in the story; For this reason, the urban setting needs to be very well developed. - Jacqueline Silveste

Weapons are part of this environmental dev. That's why, in some cases, these Urban Fantasy guns will have real names (like the Ruger in the Ava Sykes series), or even mystical ones that imbue magical powers. They may also have special modifications like species-specific bullets. 

... I opened my gun safe and slipped my Ruger 9 mm into my calf holster and smoothed down my jeans. 

I was licensed to carry, and I always did at work, more for the trip there and back than anything else. 

New LA wasn't really a city of angels, not good ones anyway...

From Ava Sykes - The Blood in the Beginning

Post Apocalyptic Fantasy

In this genre, guns make plenty of sense though there may be more issues around obtaining the firearms,

and maintaining them, let alone finding bullets. It depends on how far down the rabbit hole the world has gone. Try TW Piperbrook's Better Guns and Gardens for a quick intro!

And if you want to just kick back and watch a fantastic video-game-turned-Prime-Original-Series, there is always the newly released Fallout

"Based on one of the greatest video games of all time, Fallout is the story of haves and have-nots in a world in which there’s almost nothing left to have. 200 years after the apocalypse, the gentle denizens of luxury fallout shelters are forced to return to the incredibly complex, gleefully weird and highly violent universe waiting for them above."

However we look at them, guns are fantasy weapons and when handled correctly, make exciting additions to the storytelling.

Do you have a fav fantasy-with-firearms series? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.


Choose Your Weapon Series


The Perfect Storm

The Sword




About Kim Falconer

Kim Falconer, currently writing as AK Wilder, has released Crown of Bones, a YA Epic Fantasy with Curse of Shadows as book 2 in the series. Currently, she is working on the third book, out in 2024.

Kim can be found on  AKWilder TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Throw the bones, read your horoscopes or Raise Your Phantom on the site


Sunday, May 12, 2024

From The Backlist: "Tall, dark, and handsome isn't going to cut it" by Margaret Ronald

Margaret Ronald

It’s 'from the backlist' time again – and we love this post on writing heroes / romantic others from Margaret Ronald

Tall, dark, and handsome isn't going to cut it

by Margaret Ronald


"Let's face it: tastes differ. Especially when it comes to romantic leads.

I know my tastes when it comes to fictional men are a little . . . off. I'm more likely to crush on the hero's sidekick rather than the hero himself, I'll skim through thirty pages of stuff blowing up (okay, maybe I'll slow down for the explosions) to reach two pages of awkward infatuation, and I'd ditch Neo in a heartbeat for some quality time with Agent Smith. I imprinted on Tom Baker's Doctor early on, and so I've got a weakness for expressive eyes and a goofy grin. (And long coats and scarves, but that's another matter entirely.) Ten minutes with Miles Vorkosigan would probably drive me insane, though it would undoubtedly be an interesting madness.

In short, my fictional crushes are usually not the sort that would look good in a photo shoot -- or, at the very least, wouldn't express what I find so endearing about them. And that's okay.

What it means for writing is that I've learned to separate out what qualities get me interested and see where they overlap with what interests my heroine. Sure, I like a tall, skinny guy with glasses, but would Evie? What's more likely to sweep her off her feet? (Does she want to be swept off her feet?) And, more importantly, does that aspect of his character fit with everything else I've envisioned for him?

Still, I'm slowly learning that there are some common factors that I really like in romantic leads: wit without cynicism, the ability to be stoic in the face of overwhelming odds, a habit of introspection even if those thoughts are not shared. (And, for some reason, cyborgs. I just really like cyborgs. Go figure.) I don't know yet that I can adequately turn these loose associations into a character, but examining my reactions and understanding them makes it easier for me to figure out how to provoke a similar reaction.

Granted, tastes in fictional romantic leads don't necessarily translate to the outside world, nor the other way around. The darkly brooding type might be quite a draw while he's safely between the covers of a book, but off the page he's more likely to be the Darth Vader Boyfriend. (And, as Captain Awkward so succinctly states, you do not want to date this man.) Or, as Kate Beaton shows, dude watching with the Brontes has its limits. But this is fantasy -- as is, in a way, all fiction -- and so we're free to dream up a few things that can stay safely on the page.


To read the full post and the comments, click here.

To find out more about Margaret and her writing you can visit her blog or search on "Margaret Ronald author" -- you'll get some hits. :-)

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

The Year of the Villain #4: “Elidor” and Formless Evil


Happy May Day everyone, especially all those in the Northern Hemisphere. J

Being May 1, that means it’s time for another Year of the Villain post (in our wonderful Fantasy genre, of course!) – #4 to be exact. As the title indicates, I’m looking at Alan Garner’s Elidor and formless evil.

I say “evil” rather than “villain” because, being formless, there is no one antagonist, nor yet a gallery of villains, as in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Elidor is a children’s book, but like Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea, I believe it’s very readable for adults, particularly the sense of constant unease, morphing into outright menace, created from the outset. 

Original cover

The protagonists are four siblings, in the tradition of CS Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, although in this case it’s three brothers – Nicholas, David, and Roland – and a sister, Helen. Again similar to Narnia, it’s the youngest sibling, in this case Roland, who is the main point-of-view character.

Although the story is chiefly set in our world (i.e. it’s an early urban fantasy), initially the four stumble through a portal into the world of Elidor, which has fallen beneath an all-consuming darkness. Three of the four fortresses that once guarded the land have fallen to the dark and the lord of the fourth charges the children with taking the realm’s four treasures – the spear, sword, stone, and grail of Celtic myth – back to our world to keep them safe.

Audiobook cover

Yet the darkness, too, can cross between worlds so the children must still contend with it in order to keep the treasures safe. What they face, though, is never clearly defined beyond a darkness that stains walls and congeals in the corners of rooms. Its power manifests as static on television sets and eyes at keyholes, looking in from the other world. Warriors serve it, with terrifying persistence, but the children can no more name them than the darkness. The exact nature of both remain a mystery.

Thus proving, in Alan Garner’s expert hands, that the unknown, and allusion rather than explanation, may be more terrifying than a named and clearly understood villain, however powerful. Because make no mistake, the sense of menace, and outright terror, remains constant throughout Elidor

Ebook cover

© Helen Lowe


About the Author

Helen Lowe is an award-winning novelist, poet, and lover of story. With four books published to date, she is currently completing the final instalment in The Wall Of Night series.
Helen posts regularly on her
“…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we.


Previous “Year of the Villain” Posts:

January:      Ushering in 2024 -- & the Year of the Villain

February:    The Year of the Villain #1: The Lord of The Rings Pantheon

March: The Year of the Villain #2: Ursula Le Guin & “Earthsea”

April: The Year of the Villain #3: Tigana and Brandin of Ygrath